The Grand County football team held undefeated San Juan at bay for one quarter of play before the Broncos pulled away with 21 points in the second quarter on their way to a 47-7 victory in Moab on Thursday, Oct. 16.
In the pivotal second quarter, San Juan running back Trason Jack scored two of his four touchdowns on the night, the first on a 29-yard screen pass and the second on a 4-yard run. Each play followed an offensive blunder by the Broncos as the scoring screen pass occurred on 2nd-and-20 immediately following a sack by Red Devil senior Tanner White, and the second score occurred three plays after San Juan quarterback Payton Palmer fumbled a snap and recovered his own fumble.
The Red Devils and Broncos traded interceptions – Grant Laws caught an underthrown pass from Grand junior Dalton McElhaney and Grand junior Joseph Shumway grabbed an overthrown pass by Palmer – before the Broncos stopped McElhaney a yard short on fourth-and-4 and capitalized right before the half with a 10-yard scoring pass from Palmer to Bronz Eldredge to go up 21-0.
The Red Devil offense moved the ball well through the air in its opening drive of the game before being thwarted on fourth down, but couldn’t get the running game going, particularly up the middle.
“We couldn’t get anything going running the ball,” Red Devil football coach Dennis Wells said. “We knew we’d have a rough time since we’re so young on the line… (San Juan) knew we couldn’t run up the middle, so they were bringing it.”
Wells said the Broncos took advantage of the Red Devils’ one-dimensional offense by dropping linebackers into coverage knowing Grand had to pass.
The Red Devils had the Broncos facing third down with about 35 yards to go for a first following back-to-back San Juan penalties, before the screen pass from Palmer to Jack again worked to perfection for a 54-yard score, extending their advantage to 28-0. Grand responded with a 65-yard touchdown from McElhaney to White as the senior captain caught the pass in the middle of the field, broke a tackle and outraced the Broncos the remaining 50 yards to the end zone. White tacked on the extra point to pull the Red Devils to 28-7.
The Red Devils continued to battle, nearly intercepting another Palmer pass as White tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage, but the tip fell right into the hands of the San Juan receiver and Jack broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run a short time later. Grand junior Derek Johnson blocked the point-after and the Broncos led 34-7.
Palmer threw a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to Johnathan Lewis and Bronco sophomore running back Nathan Nielson broke free up the middle for a 55-yard touchdown run followed by a missed extra point for a final score of 47-7.
The game had no playoff implications for either team as the Broncos had already clinched the 2A South title and No. 1 seed, and the Red Devils were locked into the No. 5 seed. The Red Devils are scheduled to travel to Millard on Friday, Oct. 24 for a cross-divisional play-in game against the Eagles, who finished the regular season with a 5-4 record, 3-3 in 2A North play. Kickoff time has not yet been determined.
The majority of Millard’s victories have been of the blowout variety, but they faltered against top-tier competition, including a 42-9 loss to defending state champion South Summit on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Wells said for the Red Devils to defeat the Eagles, and set up a rematch with San Juan in Blanding on either Oct. 31 or Nov. 1, they must keep everyone as healthy as possible and establish the running game.
“What I like to do is run the ball down the field and throw in a pass here and there to keep the defense off-balance,” he said. “We can’t just pass the ball the whole time.”
Barring anything unforeseen, the Red Devils will go into the play-in game the healthiest they’ve been since early in the season.
“We made it through this game unscathed for the most part,” Wells said. “We had one of our guys who plays nose tackle (sophomore Anthony Denton) go out with a knee injury, but he looks like he’ll be good to go. We should be able to go down there and get a win.”
We couldn’t get anything going running the ball. We knew we’d have a rough time since we’re so young on the line… (San Juan) knew we couldn’t run up the middle, so they were bringing it.
Grand falls to undefeated San Juan 47-7 to conclude regular season